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April 18, 2014

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Why Should I Believe in the Resurrection?

Why indeed?

We have a story.

What wants explanation, then, is the existence of a story.

The article argues, roughly speaking, from certain 'facts' to the Resurrection.

But the tomb and the appearances, for example, are story elements - not facts.

So: we are not justified concluding 'Resurrection' even if the truth of these elements would justify such a conclusion.

Nor can justify any particular natural explanation - for the same reason : we don't know which elements of the story are true.

But what we can say, given the story and our background knowledge* is this:

Some natural explanation is far, far more likely true than the Resurrection.

RonH

*Experience tells us: When you're dead, you're dead.


Some natural explanation is far, far more likely true than the Resurrection.

This is the deciding point. You must never allow in all of human history one supernatural event. Not one. Zip.

It gets to the point that given situation anomaly X, granted five natural explanations, each with egregious flaws, and one supernatural explanation that resolves all points, anomaly X could never be resolved until more possible natural explanations, with more flaws are suggested.

Naturalism, giving natural explanations, has done good service. Granted, all those things that go bump in the night become amusing with the correct natural explanation. But naturalism must be 100% effective, and science generates enough skepticism to question its own solutions.

The Resurrection remains one of those cases that science may never succeed in cracking.

No DGFisher,

The supernatural is not prohibited.
And science is not needed to 'crack' the Resurrection (story).

You simply treat the Resurrection claim the same way you'd treat any other claim.
You readily accept a claim that is frequently true in the given circumstances.
But the more improbable the claim, the stronger the evidence you demand.
This applies to all improbable claims - not just supernatural ones.

Furthermore, science isn't what says the Resurrection is improbable.
It's true that science proportions belief to evidence this way.*
But science was taught that trick by its parent company, philosophy.
It's good philosophy to doubt the Resurrection, not bad science.

RonH


RonH,

>> But science was taught that trick by its parent company, philosophy.
It's good philosophy to doubt the Resurrection, not bad science.

Ah, philosophy now.

Philosophy, isn't that what Luther called the "handmaid of God's Word"?

Wasn't it part of the medieval curriculum called the quadrivium, and fundamental to the training of Aquinas?

It is what perhaps lead to that classic painting, the one in which the idealist Plato is pointing up, while the nominalist Aristotle who is standing next to him points down?

And wasn't it Renaissance thought that rejected Aristotle's understanding of science prior to the rise of modern science?

And wasn't it philosophy that Richard Dawkins lumped together with theology as useless pursuits to truth about two years ago (I hoped he had reconsidered)?

And isn't it philosophy that could consider the ideas of Augustine as well as Nietzsche?

In the end, it could be argued that my philosopher was the one pointing up, while yours pointed downward, all in the same quest for knowledge?

DGFischer,

Is it wise or unwise to proportion one's belief to the evidence?

RonH,

An honest question, but I need to know what you are driving at with your term "proportion."

Proportion =~ more/better evidence justifies more confidences in the belief. Actually, not my term.

RonH,

Confidence. Quite the dangerous term since it is derived from the Latin fides, faith.

I asked about proportion as a former educator, where the curriculum is a series of disciplines all to be integrated in drawing together a schema of knowledge to be utilized in the life of the person (as opposed to technical education, training in specific skills to acquire a job). Thus what we develop in mathematics, science, history/geography, language arts (this last one including critical thinking in the development of thought -- my specific area), in the whole academic experience.

Thus, I find evidence from many disciplines. Science can tell me much about heat, which helps me in the kitchen. It can't tell me what I had for breakfast; that's the role of history, which can render more important truths than this. Mathematical thinking drills one in logical thought (love that geometry!).

Therefore I have a difficulty with the concept of "more/better evidence." What would make science the sole arbiter determining supreme evidence?

Therefore I have a difficulty with the concept of "more/better evidence.
What's more convincing - two independent lines of evidence or one of them by itself?

Please assume, for the purposes of the question, that you think both lines of evidence are appropriate to the question at hand.

--------------

'Confidence' is derived from the Latin fides, faith.
Is that an argument? Part of one?

Hi DGFischer, I'm rather pleased that RonH recognizes that Philosophy is indeed parent over the Physical Sciences...it is proper and true.

I think RonH offers a similar claim here as did Ben in another recent post where he claimed that mundane details are more likely true in an ancient text/account than would be fantastic details. This doesn't really follow although it seems on the surface to be reasonable.

I think that the credibility of the witness means more to the truth value of a claim than does the percentile re: common/rare/miraculous occurances in another day or time.

Notice that right off the top, RonH, attacks the witness by charging that certain details are just story elements. If the witness is inadequate to convince someone that what it reports is trustworthy, you cannot trust any particular detail more than another, no matter whether mundane or fantastic in nature.

If someone wants to argue that mundane details are more believeable even from an unreliable witness, I would like to know why those details take weight over other testimony from the unreliable witness.

RonH

>> 'Confidence' is derived from the Latin fides, faith.

Is that an argument? Part of one?

No, no. Hardly an attempt at argument at all. Your statement just struck me as ironic.

But the rest of your post I am getting. I was put off by your more/better. More evidence is preferable. In the term papers I assigned my students, I insisted that topics should be narrowed, with the provision that enough information could be gathered. But I also taught the distinction of primary sources and secondary sources, that the best use of encyclopedia references was the bibliography that would move the researcher towards more detailed information.

As to the elimination of material, my advanced writers would develop a thesis statement to guide selection. But in matters which we are discussing, to eliminate material for preconceived notions would lead to dishonest conclusions.

BradB,

I appreciate your post and am beginning to understand the thrust of this recent line of argumentation.

Perhaps this may help.

When I was in kindergarten (a looooong time ago), one warm morning I was drinking my orange juice. The condensation on the glass was thick and I had created a curved layer of moisture on the table. I set down my glass on this wet surface and was surprised to see it move on the wet track. Eager to share this with my kindergarten teacher later that morning I said, "Teacher, I made a wet "r" on the table and the glass moved!" With every expectation that she would understand (she didn't).

We have this notion that the writers of two millennia back lack a certain degree of sophistication and savoir faire, especially if they hail from the backwaters of the then current centers of culture. We feel we must sift their ideas from the sublime thoughts and superstitious flaws. It is nothing more than Lewis' chronological snobbery. In the end, it is much the same as my trying to explain to my K-teacher something that amazed me as a five-year old, although I lacked the vocabulary to relate it clearly. The glass still moved.

Granted, the methodology that posters like Ben often ends in a failure to understand the cultural backgrounds as it had developed to that point in time. And that is eliminating too much evidence.

Hi DGFischer, I really haven't read much Lewis, but from what has been quoted of him all over, I really should. I guess I have a bit of Reformed "snobbery" that keeps me from reading outside of that particular persuasion...although I have really enjoyed GK Chesterson's "Orthodoxy" having finished and re-read again recently.

Anyway, back to your point, in my awakening [as I like to call it], reading many things along the way, I was struck by my own considerable "snobbery" while I began to realize that in my own snobbery as modern man with all our advantages, I/we generally are in fact much less sophisticated in our ability to reason things through deeply than many that came before us.

Even Chesterton's Orthodoxy from the early genesis of Darwinian evolution developed the arguments against materialism and naturalism as systems of thought that I see today in use...nothing new under the sun I guess.

btw, when you asked about what RonH means by "proportion", I couldn't help focusing on what he considers to be "evidence".

I think RonH offers a similar claim here as did Ben in another recent post where he claimed that mundane details are more likely true in an ancient text/account than would be fantastic details. This doesn't really follow although it seems on the surface to be reasonable.

Instead of 'mundane': How about 'common'? How about 'within everyday experience'? How about 'having a significant prior probability'? How about the evidence till now says: The thing claimed is known to happen!

Instead of 'fantastic': How about 'unheard of' or 'completely inconsistent one's own experience'? How about 'having a low prior probability'? How about the evidence till now says: The thing thing claimed is not known to happen? How about the evidence till now says: The thing claimed is impossible?

Saying that elements of the story are elements of a story is not 'attacking the witness'.

It's simply true! They ARE elements of a story.

What we have is a (possibly true) story!

The tomb and the appearances are 'just' elements of a story only until and unless they are shown to be elements of a true story.

If the witness is inadequate to convince someone that what it reports is trustworthy, you cannot trust any particular detail more than another, no matter whether mundane or fantastic in nature.

Once you replace 'mundane/fantastic' with 'having high/low prior probability, this is clearly wrong.

You are treating trustworthiness as if it were an all-or-nothing thing.

You are positing a level of trustworthiness that can overcome any amount of evidence of any strength.

Is that reasonable?

You are treating trustworthiness as if it transferred fully form one domain to another.

Reasonable?

Let me try to rephrase what you're saying: Testimony is evidence the strength of which depends on the trustworthiness of the source. What's written in the Bible is evidence. The trustworthiness of the Bible allows what it says to overwhelm the low prior probability of the Resurrection.

With my rephrase, trustworthiness becomes a knob you can turn in degrees from zero to some finite value - instead of a switch with two settings, zero and infinite. Turning the knob varies the strength of the evidence given by the source.


Not that it's important, but I feel like I should point out that I did not say, nor do I believe, what Brad B attributes to me above.

RonH,

>> Instead of 'fantastic': How about 'unheard of' or 'completely inconsistent one's own experience'? How about 'having a low prior probability'?

Why not "remarkable"? I respect your efforts to decide on the correct term, but am wary of how you would deem evidence to be valid only own terms of reason overruling what was observed. With "remarkable" the gospel witness tries to promote the uncommon as core to what had occurred.

This seems to be the stumbling block.

I'll conclude on this thought, and thank you for the pleasant exchange.

Hi Ben, I apologize if misrepresent what you said when you replied to WisdomLover, in the "Five Misconceptions about Holy Week" blog post, where you said this:

"Instead, it's a supernatural story wrapped in more supernatural details. The only thing we can hope to be true in such an account are some names and places. So, for instance, perhaps Jesus' mother and father really were named Mary and Joseph. Beyond that, I don't see much of historical value in the nativity narratives." [italics mine BB]

You seem to be saying what I attribute to you [using my own words], but my intention is not to misrepresent you, I truly believe that, especially with other things your wrote there that you meant what I said in response, although I acknowledge that this is an assumption since you didn't respond to me directly.

Hi RonH, as far as the first half of what you responded with, I'll pass on that for now and answer to your points in the second half.
You said:

" Once you replace 'mundane/fantastic' with 'having high/low prior probability, this is clearly wrong."

It is only clearly wrong if you suppose that "prior probability" has anything at all to do with the validity of any one thing. How does the probability of an event occurring relate to it being a part of the true accounting of the event?

If I were to make up a story and include many details of common everyday "high probability" events, then top it off with a "low probability" or impossible event, the story is no less true simply because of the inclusion of a low probability event.

In fact, if I were to tell a story that had purposfully included many "high probability" details that were all lies, and added one "low probability" thing that was actually true, your system would yeild the exact opposite evaluation of the details' truth.

Your rephrase doesn't seem to be any sort of radical departure from what I think is the case when testimony is given. If the witness has credentials, ie. has a demonstrable history of being reasonably accurate, their testimony ought to be received with corresponding credence. This seems to be what you say in your last paragraph, and I dont have any problem with that. I come across on this as being rigidly 0% or 100% as to the trustworthiness of a witness yeilding a true accounting, I wouldn't attribute that kind of infallibility standard on just anyone but at the same time, their skill/knowledge/experience/integrity and all mean more to their witness than does any probability percentages of what they report on.

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